Encontros Imediatos de Segundo Grau at Galerias Municipais de Lisboa
Whether or not one is familiar with environmental humanities studies, whether or not one attends the city’s cultural and thinking venues, nobody can escape the discourses and images of the end of the world, the end of worlds. The imminent apocalypse is creeping up from under the ground and casting a shadow from above, in an eerie scenario that is both concrete and prophetic. Even in the face of those who are convinced that this is not a legitimate concern – or at least not for their generation -, who assume a resigned attitude, there is a suspension of values of some kind that affects us all. Fortunately, building on ruined places or virtues is an ancient and constant practice on this planet, carried out by human or non-human artists.
The former group is currently exhibiting at Galerias Municipais de Lisboa – Galeria Avenida da Índia. Curated by João Francisco Reis, Encontros Imediatos de Segundo Grau attempts to make visible and palpable the molecules of pollution, danger and uncertainty that we co-inspire, paving the way for the discovery of other resistances and existences. 56 works by 12 young creators are part of this vibrant, fragile and quivering scenario of possibilities, built on the contact between a universe of natureculture ecosystems that is disappearing and another that is emerging. In this exhibition, the metaphor concerns the scientific cataloguing of Unidentified Flying Objects, organised by American astronomer J. Allen Hynek: in a Second Degree encounter, seeing UFOs produces tangible effects or traces in the territory. Interactions can be interplanetary or intergalactic; but they also allude to the collision of different languages, cultures and cosmologies within the same globe, country, city or art gallery. Or, why not, within the same body.
In this space where borders are made and unmade, where they are displaced, exposed and crossed, the art pieces – or the artianis, native to the kingdom of Arteânia, according to the text of the exhibition for children – seem to be portals between worlds, traces of a past or future event that has produced and is producing echoes in all the parties involved: the artist, the material, the visitor, the occult. As a kind of alien amulet, each work inspires us to see the most uncanny and foreign in the context it holds, warning us against the illusion of unity, linearity and solidity.
Right at the entrance we see five recent creations by Rita Paisana that excavate foreign lands, extracting silicone and other mineral, oily and shiny substances. In this other world, the artist takes whole pieces of the surface, and its geological and biological strata arrive in Belém with organisms taking their last breaths. Dense layers of paint and life, whose reliefs indicate the marks and cracks of skins and movements – we also recognise something similar to human handprints and handwork – preserve a shimmering, fluid and warm blood, still pouring in and out of the sculpture-frame. In front of A gruta de Clarice or Go-Go Dancer, both artianis born in 2023, we feel the brief, rapturous moment of the vigorous breath before the final one, of a euphoric dance before complete silence.
Progressiva (2021), by Maryam Shimizu, also comes from foreign lands, drawing attention to itself in the centre of the gallery. If Rita Paisana’s works seem to have just arrived, still fresh from the contact with another world, the Brazilian artist seems to have long since left the remote place or time with which she was confronted. Here, the effort is to try to retrace a distant encounter, to mend a fragmented and brittle memory. Through the obsessive and melancholic gesture of sewing, countless compresses become a dress or a ghostly body, as if the act of recreating and repairing could be healing in itself. Maryam reminds us of the polysemy of the verb cure, which, besides being associated with the eradication of illness and ailments, is reminiscent of the lengthy treatment given to wood, cheese or concrete. We are thrown into this maturation time of the search – which lasts until it finds its destination or we give up looking -, materialised in a piece that is always under potential construction (like the body, memory, and home). Dipped in latex, the patchwork dress becomes more resistant and displays the silhouette of a skeleton – suddenly, a human body no longer in its structure, no longer supporting its weight.
We continue, although weakened and imperfect. As I said earlier in this essay, perseverance and obstinacy are undeniable characteristics among living and non-living beings. That’s why Diogo Luz Pereirinha’s arteani, a coloured rock with a plastic core, can claim wings (Eu quero asas, 2023); a little paper boat can sail on fuzzy waters (E se?, Mafalda Riobom and Mayram Shimizu, 2023); and small fortresses can emerge – and re-emerge – in sandy and unstable territories (A Gift, 2023, Maria Máximo and Ida Mariboe). When the end of the world comes (finally) to an end, it will have already been the beginning of some new one. It’s true: Carlota Bóia Neto, Diogo Luz Pereirinha, Gabriel Ribeiro, Madalena Anjos, Mafalda Riobom, Manuel Ferreira, Maria Máximo, Maryam Shimizu, Pedro o Novo, Pedro Barassi, Pedro Tinôco and Rita Paisana have already seen it.
Encontros Imediatos de Segundo Grau is showing at Galerias Municipais de Lisboa – Galeria Avenida da Índia until December 10, 2023.
 Reference to the term used by Donna J. Haraway in The Companion Species Manifesto (2003) – “natureculture” – without spacing or hyphens between the words, emphasising the synthesis and inseparability of the concepts in ecological and material relationships, formed by biophysical and social dimensions.
 I’m reminded of the concept of the “contact zone”, a 1991 expression coined by literary critic Mary Louise Pratt at the Arts of the Contact Zone conference. The intellectual departs from the concept of “contact language”, which comes from linguistics and designates the improvised language that is born when speakers of two or more different languages meet. In Pratt, the uniqueness of this idea – also emphasised by Haraway – is the attention paid to the inequality and asymmetry of the relationships that often shape this new social space, for example the clashes between cultures opened up by colonialism or the slave trade.
 The usual translation of the concept of Das unheimliche, referred to by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay of the same name.